Jurors at Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz’s sentencing trial will be allowed to see swastikas he drew on assignments, a Florida judge ruled Thursday, according to The New York Post.
Cruz’s lawyers, in a failed attempt to bar the drawings from being entered into evidence, made the bizarre argument that Cruz murdered “without regard for race or religion”.
Presenting the Nazi symbols would be excessively prejudicial, they argued, adding that Cruz’s 2018 rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was not suggestive of racial hate.
The 17 students and staffers who were murdered and the more than dozen injured at the Parkland, Florida school on February 14, 2018, included black, white, Asian, Jewish and Hispanic people.
Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer overruled the bid and allowed the images into evidence.
She also brushed aside an ensuing call for a mistrial prompted by her ruling, calling the request “disingenuous.”
Cruz, 23, pleaded guilty in October to 17 counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of 14 students and three staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. He is contesting only his sentence. The jury is currently deciding only whether he should be executed or receive life in prison.
Cruz’s attorneys have argued that his troubled upbringing warrants the lesser term, while prosecutors counter that the mass killing deserves the harshest penalty available.
Cruz, 19 at the time, fired at students and staffers with an AR-15 rifle on three separate floors in the 2018 attack.
The FBI admitted after the shooting it had received a tip that Cruz had a "desire to kill" and access to guns and could be plotting an attack, but agents failed to investigate.
A person who was close to Cruz had called the FBI's tip line before the attack and provided information about Cruz's weapons and his erratic behavior.
The FBI acknowledged that the tip should have been shared with the FBI's Miami office and investigated, but it was not.